Ad Reinhardt worked in Oils, and needed good quality specific paints to achieve the effects he wanted. He produced a very matt quality of paint by withdrawing medium. Impressionists did this by taking paint and putting it on absorbent paper, but Reinhardt mixed prime colours 9Red, green and blue) into larger amount of black to reduce the value and get very deep blacks. He used a small amount of pigment, then 10-25 times as much Mars Black. He dissolved this in a lot of solvent, very thoroughly mixed. This is sealed in a jar and left to settle out, so that most of the binder is in the solvent. The solvent is now decanted. Repeat the medium extraction until the consistency works well. May need 3 repetitions
Need a good brush to paint sharp lines. Painting flat is essential. Create a grid on a primed canvas, Reinhardt used 3×3 grid. Reinhardt worked with 4 colours on the corners, then a pattern. Need accuracy and speed. Has to be fast because of how the paint dries. Paint to the lines first, and get a very even costing on the square. Edges painted as well. Squares will have layers built up, until the quality of the square is correct. Don’t overpaint until it is truly dry. May be a week.
“Reinhardt fosters subtle chromatic variations by adding solvent to his paint, alternating opaque with translucent passages, and creating a bricklike pattern of horizontal brushstrokes that is both structured and painterly.” (Material quote)
– Would be aware of, and influenced by, Hokusai. These used a more absorbent paper. Rework not possible, so gestural activity and spontaneity of painter is key. Reinhardt moved towards removing this from his work as far as possible in later works, but that is only partially evident here.
– Reinhardt was studying (to a degree) Zen Buddhism
– White paint on an off-white ground
– Tonal painting. All colours are a function of the paint and primer, with the thickness of the paint providing the tonal range.
– A range of paint application techniques used to build up the composition.
– Reinhardt was working with the tension between the two whites. He also sanded the canvas back to ensure a darker priming.
Black painting, and on first sight and even with a good camera etc. will look mostly like a black square. Definitely intended to be observed directly.
– Dark green band across the centre of the painting can be seen after viewing for a while. 4 corners are red, with the mid way top and bottom being blue boxes. This can only be seen over a long time.
– Almost completely removed brush stroke, and very matt. This allows the viewer to read the colour accurately given depth of black.
– Paint surface very delicate, due to lack of binder needed to produce the matt effect. This means, however, that the surface can’t be perceived, hence the field colour effect.
– To see the painting effect requires time spent in front of it. Not one to be glanced at. Very few people will get the full experience of this painting because of this. Reinhardt will have been more than aware of this effect.
– The need to spend significant amounts of time in front of the actual work (not photographic reproductions) is a significant element of the impact of this work.
“The one standard in art is oneness and fineness, rightness and purity, abstractness and evanescence. The one thing to say about the best art is the breathlessness, lifelessness, deathlessness, contentlessness, formlessness, baselessness, and timelessness. This is always the end of art.” (The artist, Art as Art Dogma in 1965.)